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COMMUNITY and faith leaders, peace and social justice activists and local Labour Party members paid tribute to Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday in an event marking his 40 years as Islington North MP.
An afternoon of film, talks, dancing and refreshments saw hundreds pack the Brickworks Community Centre in London’s Crouch Hill neighbourhood — sending a strong message to the Labour Party that the constituency continues to support the MP that the national executive committee has banned from standing on a Labour ticket.
The range of speakers showcased Corbyn’s unparalleled campaigning record. Shirley Franklin of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition recounted their work together to protect threatened services at the hospital, Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament spoke of his dogged attendance at anti-nuclear demos come rain or shine and fellow MPs John McDonnell and Claudia Webbe saluted the courage he had shown in the face of appalling abuse to champion vital but unpopular causes at Westminster over the years.
Founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum rabbi Herschel Gluck wryly pointed out that Jeremy resembled his namesake the prophet Jeremiah. “Jeremiah was a person who came with a message many people didn’t want to hear — and he was challenged but he continued to deliver his message,” he said.
“Despite everything that has been chucked at him, including the kitchen sink, Jeremy is a person who continues to stand up for the Jewish community here in Islington North and elsewhere.”
Mohammed Kozbar, chair of Finsbury Park Mosque, spoke of Corbyn’s role in the early days of the Stop the War Coalition and in organising the biggest march in British history, against the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — and of how much it meant to the community when he “rushed, straight away,” to be with them following the terrorist attack of 2017 when Darren Osborne drove a van into worshippers at the mosque, killing Makram Ali and wounding 11 others.
Corbyn was presented with a large framed copy of the famous photograph of him being arrested for protesting against apartheid South Africa, following a video message from the photographer who took it, Rob Scott.
Scott said police had banned protesters outside Africa House following Margaret Thatcher’s invitation to South Africa’s president PW Botha to visit Britain in 1984, and described how he had burst through police lines to take the famous snap.
He recalled that when Corbyn had been asked by officers if he had anything to say, he had replied: “I’m here to be as offensive as possible to the South African apartheid regime.”
Former Unite leader Len McCluskey struck an angrier tone, praising Corbyn as a “man who changed British politics — proving that a left leadership with radical policies can win the support of ordinary people” but adding: “I was asked not to be too controversial today but that’s impossible.
“Because I am angry — angry at the way Jeremy Corbyn has been treated. It is shameful what is happening in our party at the moment and the manner in which people in the Establishment are trying to take it away from us. Jeremy — I look forward to you being the MP for Islington North for many years to come.”
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